Friday, February 13, 2015

Rocks, Gems, Fossils, and ELLs

Kids are like rocks.  As the saying goes: A diamond in the rough.  With some kids, it’s easy to figure them out; they are extroverts and their personalities shine for everyone to see at first glance.  With other kids, though, including many ELLs, you have to dig beneath the surface to find the gem inside.  

Teachers need to unearth the precious gems that are the English Language Learners in their classes. | The ESL Nexus
Tucson Gem Show; source: The ESL Nexus
I was reminded of this as I wandered around the Tucson Gem Show, which is billed as the world’s largest gathering of buyers and sellers of precious stones and all things related to rocks.  I went twice this year and had a great time looking and learning about fossils, gems, jewelry and other objects for sale, such as 2,000 year old shards of Roman glass and maps from 19th century schoolbooks.

ELLs need special attention and care to thrive. Fossilized attitudes like “My grandparents came to America and they didn’t need any special help” or “S/he just needs to work harder and then they’ll get it” or “It’s not my job to teach them English—it’s the ESL teacher’s responsibility” -- those are outdated and hopefully will soon be as extinct as the animals shown below. 
Teachers need to unearth the precious gems that are the English Language Learners in their classes. | The ESL Nexus
Tucson Gem Show; source: The ESL Nexus
The kinds of jobs that didn't require advanced proficiency in English aren't available anymore and academically, the stakes are much higher now.  Parents from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds want their children to succeed in school but frequently do not have the means to help them.  It’s often not a question of the students not trying hard enough but rather that they just don’t comprehend the material or they think they do, until they have to apply it on their own and discover they didn’t actually get it.  Nowadays, ELLs are everyone’s kids and all teachers have a responsibility to ensure the students in front of them in the classroom are as successful as possible.

As I visited some of the venues of the Gem Show, I saw all different kinds of rocks.  Some were rough and uncut gems, still attached to the rocks with which they had been dug out of the ground.  Some were semi-precious stones, cut into small pieces of varying shapes, ready to be used to make jewelry.
Teachers need to unearth the precious gems that are the English Language Learners in their classes. | The ESL Nexus
Tucson Gem Show; source: The ESL Nexus
A few were huge geodes, worth thousands and thousands of dollars, cut open to reveal the sparkling beauty within.  And some of the rocks had been polished to a fine shine, all the rough edges smoothed over, glistening in the afternoon light.

Likewise, ELLs come in all shapes and sizes.  Some may look rough and unfinished at first glance, but look more closely and you will likely find a diamond in the rough.  Or, if not actually a diamond, another precious gem.
Teachers need to unearth the precious gems that are the English Language Learners in their classes. | The ESL Nexus
Tucson Gem Show: source: The ESL Nexus
As educators, we need to dig into our ELLs’ backgrounds and find the gems, however uncut they are.  We need to get the students in shape, so they are ready to learn and can find joy in learning.  We need to find the hidden beauty in all the students, however hard it may be to cut open their fa├žades.  We need to respect and honor the differences they bring to our classrooms because each individual element, when joined with all the others, creates a beautiful whole.  When we do this, when we get to know our students, and we examine their foibles and analyze their strengths, when we recognize and celebrate what they have in common instead of focusing on how they are different, we will find, more often than not, that with our support and understanding, they too will shine.  And then, like diamonds, their brilliance will be admired, desired, and valued.

SHARE:

No comments

Post a Comment

Comments may be moderated and will be published in a timely manner.

BLOGGER TEMPLATE CREATED BY pipdig